Let me being by saying that I am not a doctor and am not licensed to give medical information. Every day I get phone calls and emails from people wanting to know what medications my mother is taking to keep her stable. They're thinking that what works for my mom is going to work for them or their loved one.

That's simply not the case. If one medication worked for everyone, then treating bipolar disorder would be simple. And, as you know, it's not.

Medications don't affect everyone the same way. One drug might keep my mom stable while it causes serious side effects in someone else. The reason is that everyone's body chemistry is unique. Even doctors can't always predict the effects a medication will have on a person. That's why treatment usually involves trial and error. The doctor tries one drug, sees how the patient is doing on that drug, then decides whether or not to try something else. The whole process can take months with a good doctor.

That's why I get so angry when I go to support groups and hear the other members suggesting medications to one another or warning against trying certain drugs. None of those individuals, at least none that I've met, are trained doctors or pharmacists who should be offering any type of medical advice. Even if one of them is trained in that field, it would be irresponsible to make those types of suggestions without knowing a patient's entire history, other medications, and current health problems.

People in these groups will say, 'I tried that drug and it caused me to have horrible side effects' and the other people will think 'I'd better stay away from that medicine.' In fact that medicine may be the best one of the other person, but they may never try it because another person with bipolar disorder had a bad experience. That's just crazy!

So when people call me up and ask me what medication my mom is taking to stay stable, I simply refuse to tell them and I explain that there's only one way to find a medication that will work for you.

That way is to find a good doctor in your area, then letting him or her decide what to try. Yes, you may have to try a number of drugs before you actually find the one that works, but the process is going to be worth it in the long run.

If you want to make the process easier, you can participate. For example, if you are at a support group and you hear people talking about certain medications - both good and bad - ask your doctor about them. He or she will tell you what they think and what the potential risks and benefits might be. You can also keep a notebook of how you feel while you're trying the different medications. Your doctor can use these notes to determine whether you should try a different drug, he or she should adjust the dosage, or you should take the medication at different times.

Helping you find the right medication is the job of your doctor, not other people who have or who support someone with bipolar disorder. Make sure you find a good one, and you'll have taken the first step to stability.